The following examples should help you speak appropriately during your mediation. The way you phrase sentences will impact the outcome of your case, which is why the following tips should be practiced extensively.
Start your sentences using phrases such as “I feel” and “It seems to me.” Don’t start your sentences off this way:
- “He is a . . .”
- “She refuses to . . .”
- “That man does not . . .”
Make the subject of your sentence either you or your children, not the other parent.
Make the subject of your sentence either you or your children, not the other parent. If you don’t, you sound like you’re blaming or name calling. If you spend too much of your time haranguing the other parent, it may have the opposite impact you are hoping for. It will just make you look bad.
Instead of saying, “That woman refuses to keep her house clean” you could say “I’m concerned with the cleanliness of our children’s home environment.” Here are a few more examples of how you could start your sentences:
- “I have concern that . . .”
- “I worry that . . .”
- “I am afraid that . . .”
Notice in the above example, we started with “I” to denote a personal concern. Also notice we said “our children” and not “my children.” The children belong to both of you, and this simple phrase will indicate that you understand your co-parenting responsibilities.
Respond to the mediator, not the other parent
When the other parent blames you or complains about you, don’t respond. This wastes time and makes you look overly defensive. If a mediator needs clarification, they will ask you.
Let’s give you an example of a good and bad way to respond to a complaint about you.
Wrong way to respond: “She says I drink too much because everyone in her family is an alcoholic.”
Right way to respond: “I do drink every now and again, but our children are not negatively impacted by seeing me with an occasional drink. If it makes a difference, I am happy to stop all drinking to prove I don’t have a problem.”
Not all custody mediations involve issues such as the ones we’ve mentioned here, but the phraseology advice we give will work no matter the situation.
You can probably assume what the other parent will say about you. Practice how you will respond to such complaints using the “I” and “our” language.